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The Essential Guide to Writing for Children 4

Submitting Your Work to Agents and Editors

Suzy JenveyIn my 26 years in publishing, I have read thousands of manuscript submissions. The way they were presented varied enormously. My main tip is to let your writing do the talking; the editor or agent is ONLY interested in how good your writing is, and unusual presentation ideas aren't going to make an unoriginal idea original, or a weak writer strong.

Here are some dos and don'ts:

  1. Type your text, double-line spaced, in a readable font. Always include page numbers and a note of the number of words.
  2. Include a brief biography of you and what led you to writing. Please don't go into detail about your literary influences, motivations or preferences. For longer books include a brief synopsis.
  3. Avoid gimmicks! I have received manuscripts packaged in bottles, or tied up with legions of ribbons, or written on cloth. Each one of these ‘novel' presentations makes the ms more difficult, and slower, to read. This will not endear you to the publisher!
  4. If you are writing a picture book text, you are not expected to provide the illustrations as well. If you work with a published illustrator and want to do something together, it is fine to present a joint project, but please don't provide illustrations yourself if you aren't an illustrator. The choice of illustrator has many professional and personal aspects; an editor may pair a first time author with an established illustrator for sales, or may have a favourite illustrator who they think is right for your work.
  5. If you are a new writer, you need to include the whole, complete book to read. This may sound obvious, but I have received many submissions that are just an outlined idea or a plot breakdown. Fiction publishers don't buy ideas, they buy writers.
  6. By all means, include a few selling points if you feel the need to draw the editor's attention to the story's marketability, but please don't include detailed marketing or publishing plans. The publisher is the expert into the future potential of a story; it is the quality of the original idea and the writing alone that they are looking for at this stage.
  7. Avoid presents. It might seem a nice idea to include champagne, chocolates or other gifts to endear you to the editor, but it may give the impression that you are trying to bribe them, and that you have little confidence in the quality of your work to sell itself.
  8. Do include any expertise you might have with online marketing, or experience in talking to schools or public events. Most publishing publicity is author-based in one way or another, so it helps if the publisher knows that you can contribute.
  9. Always read the publisher and agency submission guidelines (usually on their website) before submitting. Your ms may not even make it to a reader if you ignore these.
  10. Always include an SAE, and check that the publisher or agent you are sending it to actually deals in this market. At least 30% of my submissions end up being for a book in an area I don't deal with, which is a terrible waste of time and expense on both sides.

The Essential Guide to Writing for Children series

The Essential Guide to Writing for Children I: Which age group should I write for?

The Essential Guide to Writing for Children 2 - Before You Write: What is My Story Going to be?

The Essential Guide to Writing for Children 3 - Starting to Write

Suzy Jenvey started working in publishing in 1986 at Jonathan Cape/Bodley Head as a Publicity Manager. After roles as Marketing and Publicity Director for Chatto and Simon and Schuster, she spent 15 years at Faber and FaberClick for Faber and Faber Publishers References listing as Children's Editorial Director. She now edits, agents and writes reports as a freelancer, as well as giving historical talks about her beloved Greenwich, and volunteers for the charity Riding for the Disabled, working with horses and autistic children.

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